Dan Bates / The Herald
Delicious (left) and Scrumptious battle over the fresh whey saved from the cheese making process just for them at the Yarmuth Farm near Darrington. You can learn how to make cheese and how to raise pigs Jan. 28 at the Country Living Expo & Cattlemen's Winterschool in Stanwood.
This, ladies and gentleman, is actually some cause for excitement.
This annual event, hosted by the Stanwood FFA and presented by the WSU Skagit County Extension and other local groups, will be from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 28 at Stanwood High School, 7400 272nd St. NW.
It's a veritable festival of agricultural learning not just for farmers and ranchers, but also gardeners, foodies, locavores and fans of urban homesteading, said Washington State University livestock advisor program coordinator Joan DeVries.
"City people who just live on a little lot could come and find 40 classes they can take," DeVries said. "You can not leave our day and not have a great day."
Attendees get to choose from more than 150 classes in topic areas such as raising beef, horses, poultry, sheep, goats, pigs and fiber animals such as alpacas, plus growing and preserving food and tending honey bees.
Gardening classes include drip irrigation, managing good and bad bugs, composting, backyard hens, flower arranging and classes on how to grow tomatoes, grapes, dried beans and giant pumpkins.
Foodies should take note of the event, too, with sausage-, cheese-, jerky- and cider-making classes, plus sessions on local grain grinding, smoking fish and barbecue.
Early registration for $55 goes through Dec. 31 and includes five class sessions, a catered hot lunch and an all-day trade show with 60 vendors. After Dec. 31 the cost goes up to $60.
The first 200 students ages 12 to 18 who register and pay $10 will receive a sponsorship to cover remaining attendance costs.
Eat-local advocates have helped make the homesteading lifestyle popular among non-farmers, too, including the fans of the annual Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge, founded in Snohomish County and hosted this year by the Not Dabbling in Normal blog at notdabblinginnormal.wordpress.com.
Myriad books on growing and raising your own food have come out in recent years, too, including "The Urban Farm Handbook" by Seattle Sustainable Eats blogger Annette Cottrell, who will be presenting two sessions at the country living expo.
More than 1,100 people attended the expo last year, DeVries said.
"We're growing. People want to know where their food comes from," DeVries said. "We have a lot of classes that help folks be more sustainable."
To register for the expo, go to skagit.wsu.edu/CountryLivingExpo. Call 360-428-4270 to request a registration form by mail.